Saturday, 23 September 2017

Trunks and Trails: South Africa // Part 1

Good day, everyone :)
Summer is over, sad face. We're into September now which means back to reality and back to wading through college work and life and not being able to use the excuse "but it's summer" as a viable excuse to be a bit lazy 😂
September is also when I have my birthday. The 21st, to be exact. So I'll be looking forward to that and I'll be looking forward to going back to Sligo in a few days and getting out to Strandhill, Rosses Point and seeing friends again, so it'll be a pretty hectic month!
But on to the blog post!
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So at the start of the summer, right after I came back from Erasmus, it was a quick change over before I was on the road to the airport, heading to South Africa!
I returned to Ireland on the 7th of June, a Wednesday and on the 10th, a Saturday, I was packed up and ready, with my family, to head off again.

 Preparation

The preparation for South Africa began pretty much as soon as we were told about the trip. As this was a family holiday-style trip, amazingly paid for by my father, it was his idea to go there in the first place. So to get prepared for South Africa, it was a case of researching the areas we were going. Listing what we could go and see, what we would like to do and make sure we have all the necessary items, medicines and accessories for the trip.


  1. One of the key things to get done before going to South Africa was to make sure that we were all appropriately and carefully medically checked and vaccinated. Things to get vaccinated against were tetanus, hepatitis and typhoid. Being in Spain, it was a bit of a task to find a place that would vaccinate against, basically, tropical diseases. For anyone travelling abroad to a place that may require vaccinations, check out this website to find a tropical medicine bureau/clinic near you: https://www.tmb.ie/
  2. In the month that we travelled to South Africa, June. It was winter time in South Africa. Now once we got there, it was 30 degrees celsius, which for an Irish person, is far better than any day in our summer. So for me, the essentials needed for the trip were items such as shorts, t-shirts, sunglasses, caps and light shoes. Whilst there, we were treated to some odd looks from the locals. They were in body warmers and long pants, calling it cold.
  3. Travel Agent documents/information. Travelling via a travel agent, as we did. Keeping an eye on your documents and making sure you have all times, dates and information correct, and it'll make for a less-stress time.

The Trip

Saturday, 10th of June. We left home in the early afternoon. The travel plan was to, instead of driving to Dublin, was to drive to Galway and take the bus from the Galway Bus Depot to the airport, direct. We took GoBus from Galway airport. I find GoBus to be a good, direct transport from the airport. It saves money for those driving and it also gets you to the door of the terminal building sufficiently and punctually. Our flight was leaving at around 15:45, we made it to Dublin airport just after 2:30 so we had enough time to check in the bags and get ourselves something to eat. We quickly made it through security and weren't waiting too long before our first flight was boarding. 
The first leg of the journey was a quick flight from Dublin to London Heathrow. What I love is that it takes about 45 minutes to fly from Dublin to London. Enough time for a powernap! For the first flight, we took an Aer Lingus flight. It was my first time flying with Aer Lingus, actually. For the flight over, I can't really review or say much about the service because I was already asleep before take off...
But 45 minutes later we were touching down at Heathrow Airport and shuffling through the transfer area to sit and wait a few hours before our next flight. Heathrow Airport is quite cool, I think. A bit pricey in some places, but it has a lot of stuff to see and a lot of restaurants, so when you're stuck in Heathrow on a layover, it isn't hard to find something to pass the time. It's worth going into WHSmith  and maybe pick up something to read because the next leg of the journey is the big one.
The next leg of the trip was from London Heathrow to Johannesberg Airport in South Africa. We boarded the aircraft, got everything settled and sorted. For
me, it was my first experience of a real long haul flight, so it was quite fun to see tv screens, blankets and food being served on the aircraft, I mean it made the trip feel a bit more luxurious. We weren't taxiing to the runway and setting off. Flight time- Just over 10 hours. The start of the trip is the amazement stage where we picked through the movies and music, ate our on-board meal and tried to sleep. We flew from London to South Africa with South African Airways who provided a nice service, a comfortable flight and the food was not too bad! Here is some advice for if you're going to do the long-haul trip:


  1. Travel Socks: You'd be quite surprised, as even I was skeptical about whether or not to wear travel socks, as in my head I was thinking "Damn, I'm not an old man, I don't need to wear travel socks". For me, a few hours into the flight and my legs started getting sore and the compression in the cabin was making my feet swell a bit but the socks kind of contained it and made the flight just that bit more comfortable. I'd recommend when doing the trip to pack a pair of travel socks, just in case.
  2. Neck Pillow: One of the things that made the flight a whole lot nicer was the fact that I had brought my own travel neck pillow. When I sleep on a plane or bus or other transport, my neck really gets strained. A great investment for those long haul and even short haul flights is a travel neck pillow. I purchased my memory foam neck pillow from Primark/Penneys for only 4 euro. 4 euro well spent! For info on the Primark/Penneys neck pillow: https://www.primark.com/en-ie/product/memory-foam-travel-pillow,d1181102620150104
  3. Download Movies/Shows: Although South African Airways provided almost up to date movies, music and tv shows, there was only limited selection. Don't be totally reliant on that, download a couple episodes of a show or a couple movies. I mean, for a 10 hour trip, you could definitely start and finish a season of Game of Thrones!
We arrived in Johannesberg like a bag of weasels. Tired, grumpy and hungry, thankfully we didn't have long to wait for our last connecting flight. After we collected our baggage, we moved through the Or Tambo Airport until we were greeted by a rep from Travelchoice, the travel agency we booked through. Helpfully, he guided us from gate to gate and gave us all the information and necessary ticketing we needed to pass through the airport. After getting through what felt like the 10th security check, we were then waiting for our next flight. Johannesberg to Nelspruit. The airline we flew with was the South African Airways subsidiary airline, AirLink. A jet sized aircraft was what was carrying us from Johannesberg to Nelspruit. Another 45 minute flight, the crew on-board treated us to a little gift, a luggage scale, from AirLink for their 25th anniversary. 
We landed in Nelspruit Airport and it was such a sight to see. The airport was basically a hut with a woven roof, tractors were pulling the luggage trailers and the warm air was awesome. We weren't long in the airport, we gathered our bags and moved through to meet our car transfer. Travelchoice's transfer drove us from Nelspruit Airport to Hazyview town, a good 1 hour drive.

Hippo Hollow

The layout of the vacation was to get the relaxation out of the way before we got on to the activity side of the trip. We got to our accommodation for the relaxation part of the trip, Hippo Hollow in Hazyview. Thatched roofs and huts surrounded the entrances, a couple of peacocks walking around the place and we were immediately greeted by the concierge as we got out of the car. The one thing that worried me was that when were getting the keys to our rooms, we signed a waiver basically saying that we are constantly surrounded by wild, dangerous animals so don't be stupid and get killed. 
We got to our rooms. Nice, airy huts with a small kitchen area, lots of bedroom space, a very nicely designed bathroom and access to the terrace/pool area as well as a barbecue area on the back porch. After getting our stuff sorted, changing clothes and showering, we were ready to check the place out and get food. Not sure what to expect on the menu, we were happy to see that they had regular food likes burgers, paninis, pizzas and other assorted foods like that on the menu. We sat on the patio which overlooked the river and also looked up to the hills where we could see elephants roaming around, having a jolly old time. The rest of the afternoon was spent lounging in the bedrooms, regaining strength and energy. There wasn't even enough energy to go to the pool, to be honest.
In the evening, we went to the main reception where we were ushered to another part of the resort. Along the trail there was little bonfires lit and we were given a cup of some sort of beverage. Hoping it was alcohol, it was downed but however, it was not. It turned out to be some sort of banana pureé kind of drink that did not go down well. We entered this sand pit area where there were other guests seated in the audience area. We were given a bowl of spicy popcorn and waited.
Not too long after sitting down, loud drums started going off. A posse of dancers came out and started moving to the rhythm. Their dancing was mixed with some traditional singing. The dancing was very cool but also a bit out of the ordinary for us. A lot of shaking of bodily parts, legs flying everywhere, but it was very entertaining and a good welcome for us.
The rest of the stay in Hippo Hollow included a lot of eating and relaxing by the pool. But of course, we were in SOUTH AFRICA so we couldn't say no to a few activities during out relaxation time.

Panoramic Tour

One of the things in our many list of things we wanted to do was do a panoramic tour of the surrounding areas. Nelspruit, where we were, was
surrounded by amazing viewpoints, waterfalls and scenery. Through our concierge, who booked the activities, we were set up with our driver who was going to take us on our day trip. 
The day of panoramic touring came and we were set up with a Mhangele Luxury Tours driver who was happy to greet us and take us on our way. The plan of attack was to start with one of the furthest landmarks and work our way back to Hazyview. We drove up to places like Graskop and Sabie to see some of the beautiful views. Graskop was our lunch place on the way back but first we went past Graskop
The first stop on our drive was up in the Blyde River Canyon. A place that looks down into deep forest and really amazing bodies of water that was just picture perfect. Not staying long in any of the places we stopped we moved along. In the Blyde River Canyon parking lot was a lot of souvenir stalls, and of course, being very bad with money, I bought a little wooden elephant. Along the tour we saw many waterfalls, forests and high looking points that looked all over Mpumalanga. Some of the places on our Panoramic Tour included:
  • Lowveld View
  • Berlin Falls
  • Bourkes Potholes
  • Lisbon Falls
  • The Pinnacle 
Of course, one of the most beautiful viewpoints we got to see was God's
Window. Probably one of the most stunning views I have ever seen in my life. The air up there was so fresh and the view was like nothing I've seen before. The dense forest and the sun shining through the valley, the name was truly fitting. If anyone is going to Nelspruit, go and see God's Window. It's just fantastic.
On our way back to Hazyview, we stopped in Graskop for our well deserved lunch. Looking at the views can be very famishing work, let me tell you. And as you all know, I never decline food... We stopped at one of the best eateries in Graskop. Harrie's Pancakes. We sat out on the veranda with our drinks. The menu was incredible. All the pancakes and waffles you would want. Savory or Sweet, they had all the combinations you'd want. My sister and I ordered the white chocolate waffles and my father ordered a savory pancake. Reasonably priced, the food was very very tasty. Dutch bacon pancakes. White chocolate waffles. Ugh I was in
heaven. But alas, it didn't last forever and we made our way back to Hazyview. 
The only downside I can say is that the driver we had, it wasn't until after the tour was finished that he mentioned that he didn't have a card machine and gave us our bill. So, it was inconvenient to have to try and find an ATM. Other than that, really, it was a great experience.

For more on Mhangele Luxury Tours, you can contact them at: mhangele.tours@gmail.com
And to see Harrie's for yourself, check out: http://harriespancakes.com/

Elephant Whispers

As I mentioned above when we arrived at Hippo Hollow, we were having lunch and we could see elephants roaming around the hills. Well, adjoining Hippo Hollow is actually an elephant sanctuary which does deals with Hippo Hollow and allows guests to come up for a morning and see the elephants, so obviously we had to do it! 
We woke up excited to go and see the elephants. They're an animal I would
definitely associate with like, exotic and sub-Saharan holidays. If I dreamed of going on safari, elephants are definitely on the top of the list. Luckily my dream came true. Gulping down my bran muffin and croissants, we were led across the bridge that joins Hippo Hollow and Elephant Whispers by one of the Elephant Whispers' staff. 
We got to the main shop/office area and the first thing we saw was the fattest dog but probably one of the cutest dogs I've ever seen. A big loaf of bread laying in the shade. We went to the office area so we could sign the disclaimer saying that we'd be surrounded by elephants and we're responsible for our actions. We signed and waited for the guides to come and get us.
Shortly, a guide brought us to the main arena-like area where they had six elephants waiting to greet us. Literally such fascinating creatures. Hugely intelligent but also very friendly. I was surprised at how close we could get to
the elephants. They brought one or two of the elephants forward and laid them down so we could understand more about the physiology and life of an elephant in the wild. Absorbent skin, huge satellite ears, bristley hairs on them and really weird texture to their skin. My favorite elephant had to be Tembo. The 3.4 metre giant who weighed like 6 tonnes. We had our elephant pellets and were able to ask Tembo to do some commands. Lift his leg. Shake his trunk. Take the hat off your head. All in the name of food. An animal after my own heart, to be fair.
After the in-depth look at the elephants, we got what we all came for, a ride on the back of an elephant. It has to the one of the coolest things ever. Sitting and feeling the weird way the elephant walks. Seeing the area surrounding our resort on the back of an elephant. It was really really magnificent. We got to ride on the back of Tembo, so we were 3.4 metres off the ground and it was awesome! 
A little tip for riding a 6tonne x 3.4 metre elephant... Wear something you can be flexible in. It hurts.

You can see more about Elephant Whispers here: http://www.seasonsinafrica.com/adventure-activities-in-south-africa/lowveld-activities/elephant-whispers/


The rest of our time in Hippo Hollow was spent eating, drinking and lounging. But after our activities, it wasn't long until we were onto the next stage of our African adventure!

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Be sure to stay tuned for the next part of the African Adventure!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Pacheco, Woyzeck and a Whole Lot Of Driftwood

Good evening, lovely people. How's everything going for you all? My last post wrapped up my Roadtrip Saga. Such fun times on Erasmus, let me tell you. And wrapping up that awesome trip was really fun and now, after writing those posts, it's fun to read them and look back and for everyone involved on the trip to reminisce about the awesome roadtrip.

So since that roadtrip, bits and pieces have happened. Finished up my Spanish experience and in a whirlwind of travelling bliss, was up and travelling again to South Africa less than 72 hours later. More on that later in some follow up blogs. So by the end of this summer I'll be uploading and trying not to brag about the awesome experiences in Spain and South Africa.
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Beginning this entry, I currently find myself sitting in the center of Galway City surrounded by art, merchandise and a lot of cool people.
At the beginning of this month, I found myself in a situation where I didn't have a job, was searching for a job and trying to find something to occupy my time rather than sitting around doing nothing. One of the many things I pondered and researched was the Galway International Arts Festival. Something that I have visited in the past, been meaning to get involved in for years and from a touristic point of view, was drawn to. 
The week before the festival began, whilst I looked around for a job, I made the decision to just go for it and apply for a volunteer position with the festival. Thinking I wouldn't be accepted for whatever I wanted to apply for, I ended up applying for a lot of different things within the festival including, visual arts, theater and box office positions. The first position I was drawn to and had the strongest inclination to work in was as a merchandising officer. Luckily, I was contacted not long after my application process by the wonderful volunteer co-ordination manager, Carly, who told me I had been accepted for the merchandise position, I had to show up at the festival HQ and be introduced to my job.
The introduction process took place on the 12th of July and was a quick briefing, That night I signed myself up for the following nights show and got to work with, and still get to work with my Hub/Black Box team. Shout out to Lea, Joe, Aoife, Juley, Vincent, Kady, Yvonne, Camila, Jess, Celine... I legit could list everyone who I want to shout out, maybe at the end! And that's briefly how I got involved as a volunteer for the Galway Arts Festival. 

Unlike my other posts, I'm not gonna drag on with a tale of whats been going on, Instead, I'm going to detail what I saw, what I thought of it and for the weekend coming up, what I'd recommend going to see.

Ana MarĂ­a Pacheco/Ailbhe NĂ­ Bhriain/John Beard

One of the luckiest things I think I got to be able to do as part of the GIAF team for 2017 was to be able to work my merchandise job from inside the main Festival Gallery on Market Street.
In this Gallery, which I highly recommend going to see over this coming weekend, contains two interesting and contrasting artists. Being involved and working for merchandise means that in the mornings and evenings I am surrounded by some pretty complex and impressive pieces of art that I could only dream of creating.

Ana MarĂ­a Pacheco:
My first visit into the Gallery, I can honestly say that the work of this artist left me feeling slightly down and the initial impression I got from the artwork was a
feeling of both amazement but also a slight negative feeling towards the art. It's not that the work was bad, it's just my initial introduction to the art was accompanied by slight misunderstanding of the art, the background of the artist and how much work, detail and effort went into creating such, and I can honestly say, masterpieces.
Given the nature of the jobs I was doing within the Festival Hub/Gallery, I spent most mornings walking in and around the work of Ana MarĂ­a Pacheco. Pieces like The Longest Journey, a piece so large and eye catching; Dark Night of the Soul, a masterpiece of myth and history and a plethora of prints which would definitely leave you feeling impressed, inspired, depressed... But would leave you with a striking emotion.
Ana MarĂ­a Pacheco's exhibition ran for the entirety of the Galway International
Arts Festival. The best part about working so close to the work of this artist, is the interesting reactions, ideals and comments the general public had about the pieces. The different themes they thought of and their willingness to let their mind wander whilst looking at the art, which in turn, painted many different concepts in my mind.
The second day the exhibit was open, the Gallery was treated to a special visit by the artist. Ana Maria Pacheco visited the Gallery with Colin Wiggins, the former curator of the National Gallery of London. Their main reason for visiting the Gallery was to partake in a "Conversation with the Artist". For 45 minutes, Ana sat and discussed the methodology behind her work. The techniques. Ideas. Formats and ideologies
she considered when constructing and creating her work. Being within earshot, it was fascinating to look and hear a woman of 73 years of age telling the gallery she still makes huge sculptures and the precision in her work. 
After her talk, she fielded some audience questions before I got the pleasure to greet her and sign some of her programmes. A very humble woman and very open about greeting the public. It was interesting to hear and speak to a woman of such stature within the art world.

Galway International Arts Festival was the latest in a wide selection of exhibitions of Ana MarĂ­a Pacheco. Her work has been on display in places like Oslo, New York, Boston, Kyiv and London. After doing some research, it's not clear when and where her work will be exhibited in the future. Personally, I would be interested in seeing more of her work. So I recommend keeping up to date with Pratt Contemporary Art's website: http://www.prattcontemporaryart.co.uk/ana-maria-pacheco-2/

Ailbhe NĂ­ Bhriain
"Ailbhe NĂ­ Bhriain is a Cork-based artist who works with film and photography" this quote is extracted from the website of the Galway International Arts Festival. The work of Ailbhe NĂ­ Bhriain's work has been and is something that I would consider to be "complex pieces of art". It's something that goes beyond my thinking, I think. The "Inscriptions" exhibit was and has been the one piece from the Arts Festival that has still left me puzzled. 

In an age where images can or cannot be true, in terms of digital remastering, retouching, photoshopping, editing... all forms of photo and technological works to recreate and shape an image to how we want, the work of Ailbhe NĂ­ Bhriain is a complex and artistic way to digitally remaster and reconfigure an image in a way that stretches the mind beyond comprehension and makes you look past the obvious. Either that, or I haven't gotten the grasp of the art...
The inspiration behind the art pieces on display the the GIAF arts gallery was the early text of Samuel Quiccheberg, the German writer who had the earliest cognition of "museology" or the categorization of pieces, in a way to create what we now know as a museum. His piece "Inscriptions of the Immense Theatre" was the power behind the exhibition. The work on display was difficult to make sense of, and unfortunately, I couldn't attend the talk given by Ailbhe NĂ­ Bhriain
which may have shed a light on the artwork. 
The fact that the work had and still leaves me puzzled is kind of what intrigues me more about the art work and kind of inspires me to go and see more of her work, to see how it compares or could it be contrasting pieces of art.

Apart from the Galway International Arts Festival, Ailbhe's work has been on exhibition in places like Paris, Rennes, London and most recently, Carrick-On-Shannon at the Docks. I would recommend going to see Ailbhe's work, if you're into complex, digitally remastered pieces of art. For more: http://ailbhenibhriain.com/works

John Beard
On my last day of the festival, being surrounded by the works of Ana MarĂ­a Pacheco and Ailbhe NĂ­ Bhriain, to see more art was on my list, as when would I get a chance to see it. So knowing that there was a strong art exhibition down in The Shed, on the Docks. On my break I walked down to The Shed to see what kind of exhibition John Beard had on display.
The Raft of Medusa, painted by Théodore Géricault in the early 1800's was an oil painting that depicted the shipwreck of the French vessel, Medusé. A ship bound for Senegal where the British colonists were to return the ownership of Senegal to the French. This was a huge diplomatic and essential power move on behalf of the French Monarchy, who had just overcome the Napolean defeat.
The Medusé vessel had the newly appointed French Governor and his family on board the ship. The ship hit a sandbank and began to crumble. With 400 people on board, there was enough room on the lifeboats for 250. In an attempt at survival, the remaining people built a raft and drifted on the water with nothing but 1 pack of biscuits, 2 cases of water and numerous casks of wine. Because save the wine and not the food, right? The people on board the raft turned to cannibalism and after 13 days at sea, were rescued.
Théodore Géricault, after the events of the Raft of Medusa, it was a controversial painting in the French Romantic era. Mostly due to the political scandal involved due to the fact that the Captain of the Medusa was incompetent and reflected back on King Louis XVIII. The Raft of Medusa painting went on to inspire many of the great French artists like Delacroix. The Raft of Medusa, as I believe, is on display at the Louvre.
John Beard's recreation of the Raft of Medusa, named "After the Raft of Medusa" was something to behold. Thinking that the Guernica was an art piece to see, the size of John Beard's work... wow, it was impressive. On one side of the hanger was the "After the Raft of Medusa" piece but on the opposite wall was a mirrored image on a black slate-like wall. The look of both pieces as you stood in the middle was super intriguing. His work has invoked my desire to see the original GĂ©ricault picture. Unfortunately, I didn't work at the Gallery where this piece was on display nor did I get to meet John Beard but my impression of the art work... Just wow. The history behind it, it makes for a more fascinating piece knowing that it was a scandalous piece... I mean, DRAMA!

John Beards work has been on display in many galleries worldwide in places like Sydney, London, Lisbon and of course, Galway. And his work can be seen on exhibition in places like the Tate Gallery and with some collections all over the world. For more: http://johnbeardart.com/

Woyzeck in Winter

A musical/drama piece brought to the Arts Festival this year by Landmark Productions and GIAF, Woyzeck in Winter made it's worldwide premiere in Galway at this years festival. A combination of two separate but not wholly different pieces, Conall Morrison and a creative team re imagined and combined the two old pieces of Woyzeck and Die Winterreise both made between 1825 and 1840. These two pieces, one musical and one a dramatic piece, gelled to become what we now know as "Woyzeck in Winter"
I had the pleasure of going to see Woyzeck in Winter before the opening of the festival, during the previews of the show. It was a piece I'm glad I got to see. It was melodramatic. Cold. Energetic. Vocally strong. The only fault was in the actual storyline. A bit of tweaking to make the story stronger would have
worked really well and have one, and not three or four themes running through the story. However, the talent of the show really made up for it. Featuring strong vocalists like Camille O'Sullivan, the show featured other acting greats like Peter Coonan (Fran from Love/Hate) and Rosaleen Linehan. The show's talent shone through and made for a really good performance.
The piece had different themes. Mental health. Human experimentation. Love. Loss. Betrayal. Mistrust. All the key things needed for a melodramatic masterpiece, right?
Jamie Vartan designed the set. The set was outstanding. Broken pianos everywhere. Snow fallings. Beautiful set arrangements. It was very well laid out.

Words can only relay so much of a visual piece. And watching it in theater that didn't allow videos etc. I can only recommend going to see it, which you should do! For more: https://woyzeckinwinter.com/performances/

The Second Violinist

A show I had to go and see twice. An uneven set. Subtitles. A huge screen displaying games, texts and emojis. Running around. Drama. Bloodshed. 
A modern opera that left me wanting to go and see it again. Aaron Monaghan stars as Matthew/Martin. A Carlo Gesualdo lover and a violinist struggling with his demons. A lot goes on in this piece. A lot of things happen on stage and you have to keep your eyes peeled to all corners of the stage to be in full awareness
and submersion of the piece. The composition of the music score compliments the action so well and leaves you on the edge of your seat and also left me bemused at the actions of the conductor!
An Enda Walsh directed piece. Enda Walsh, for those who don't know, is a Tony Award winning director and play write who is a friend of the Galway International Arts Festival, previously bringing pieces like Arlington, Ballyturk and Misterman to the Festival, bringing the acting talents of Aaron Monaghan, Stephen Rea and Cillian Murphy to the festival. His continued success and sheer genius as a play write was evident in The Second Violinist. The piece is Enda's second opera piece. Penned alongside composer Donnacha Dennehy. On both occasions I saw the show, it concluded with a standing ovation, truly deserved. 
Aaron Monaghan combined with the vocals of the likes of MĂĄire Flavin and Benedict Nelson, the piece sent chills through the audience as well as open eyes as the brief bit of nudity provided by Aaron Monaghan. The drama. The tragedy and the pain could be felt from the lead actor and the score made it feel more real. 
I can say that The Second Violinist is a piece I would go and see again for a third time and I can only wish it good things. I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

This piece I highly recommend getting tickets to. If you can, go to: https://thesecondviolinist.ie/performances/  And get yourself tickets for the performance in Dublin, it'll be worth it! 

Passenger

On the first Saturday of the festival, some of the volunteers, including me were eligible to get tickets to go and see Passenger perform at the Absolut Big Top. I took the offer of the free ticket and went along to the concert.
Now, Passenger, to my own personal knowledge, had that song: "Let Her Go". So I was expecting for him to sing that song and for the place to die. But knowing that he was famous for said song, he played out his set. A very well performed set, I must say. Once you got into the tent where he was performing, you got swept up in his music and next thing you know, you're screaming the song back to him.
Before he took the stage, Hudson Taylor were on stage and they ROCKED the tent. They were pretty awesome and got the crowd all going. When Passenger came on, the crowd was ready. Absolut vodka sponsored the festival, so that's pretty awesome. The drinks flowed and so did the music. But I was kinda right. As soon as Let Her Go was over, the crowd was walking out the gate. His set was good though! I was impressed!

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All in all I can say that this years Arts Festival was pretty good! Long days, crazy times and laughs but it was a well spent experience making friends, learning new things and feeling more cultured afterwards! The wrap party was well worth the two weeks of long days, let me tell you! So thank you GIAF for the fun times! Until next year...

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Twitter: Davidko49

Saturday, 1 July 2017

The Roadtrip Saga: The Assassin (Sevilla)

Hey there! Hope you're all doing good and well and are enjoying your summer! Yeah, it's been quite a while since my last post and some of you have been asking when the next installment of this roadtrip saga was gonna be posted. With exams, social obligations, traveling and other activities over the past two months, it wasn't the right time to be posting content if I didn't have enough time to commit to good content writing.
But enough with the excuses. I'M BACK. And over the next few days I'm gonna have a few things to post!
I'm back in Ireland now. No longer living in Spain and have gone on another really cool trip that will be discussed in one of the next posts. So to finish what I started, here is the third and final installment of The Roadtrip Saga!
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The drive to Sevilla was a fun one. We were driving from Malaga, and it can be debated whether or not any of us were in a fit state to travel or not. But after napping on the beach I think we were on the border of okay and not okay. The car ride, with Lotta, Erika, Jan and myself was a good one that consisted primarily of conversations regarding the night before and how the whole night came to be.
The drive from Malaga to Sevilla took around 2 hours. It was a fairly smooth drive. We chatted most of the way or were singing along to the music on the radio, or attempting to. Spanish/Reggaeton music is great music to listen to in the car, let me tell you!
Our group was the first group to make it to Sevilla, as Erika was the one to use her account to book AirBnB. We arrived in the evening time, shortly around sundown. The first port of call was to stop in the center, to drop off Lotta, who would meet with us again later. The three of us that were left, with the help of google maps, made our way to the Airbnb. Eventually, but with not much difficulty, we found the apartment and the owner waiting for us. The accommodation we rented in Sevilla, was again rented from Airbnb, as it could fit all 9 of us. The owner met us outside the apartment and immediately gave us a guided tour of the apartment. 

To say that the apartment was nice, is an understatement. Rooftop apartment with enough space for 9 or 10 people I would say. Fitted kitchen, two bathrooms, big living area and of course, the crowning item... The big rooftop terrace that looked out towards the city of Sevilla. Being the first three there, we had the privilege of picking our own beds first before the others got there. And also have a little snoop at the apartment. Just as we were getting to the good stuff, the others from the other car came arrived.
As we all got ourselves settled, it became a matter of figuring out the plans of the evening. Stay home and order food at the apartment or go out and meet with some friends we knew were in Sevilla also and eat while we're out. All the pro's and con's were weighed out. Cost. Driving. Parking. Time. But the most prominent topic thrown around was hunger. Everyone was hungry. Eventually it was decided that we would just head into the center and get ourselves food and then decide how we feel about drinking.

We drove to the center, bearing in mind that it was the final days of Semana Santa and the traffic would probably be mental. But we chanced it! We made it to the center and found a parking space quite easily. Looking for a place to eat was the next task. It wasn't until someone asked that we realized that is was midnight. So standing in the middle of the street, we were debating what to do and where to go. Turning up a side street, our answer came in the form of a badly lit and slightly sketchy looking Chinese restaurant, simply called "Restaurante Chino,it was now past midnight, none of us argued with Chinese food. The door legit opened with a creak. I can say, it was the probably the weirdest decorated places I've been to. The table decor was just simple. But surrounded on the walls were loads of motorbike helmets. What was weirder was people coming and leaving, as they did, they left or picked up a motorbike helmet.
The decor is besides the point. We ordered our food. I ordered the sweet and sour chicken with chicken fried rice. Others ordered similar sweet and sour dishes or some beef dishes. The food itself was actually quite tasty. There wasn't many other people in the restaurant, so it did give me initial sketchy vibes and a sign of lower quality but I can say that my sweet and sour chicken and chicken fried rice was actually quite tasty and filling. I think its safe to say that all of us couldn't complain with our food, especially considering the time of night that it was.
After dinner, the plan was to walk towards town and find the girls. So we did just that. We used our trusted google maps and went on to the main street which also doubled as the strip of Sevilla. After looking in the terrace areas of one or two bars we eventually found Lotta, Lorena and some of their friends. It was nice to have other people in Sevilla that we knew! Francois, Morten and I decided to let the Finnish conversations flow and have a beer. We went, bought our beers and chatted amongst ourselves. The girls we met then tried their best to persuade us to go to the Nightclub. Tired and grumpy from the night before, we decided against that idea, finished our beers, said goodbye and headed home!
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The next day was a late start. Funnily enough, with two bathrooms, it was still hard to get an opportunity to shower. Then again, we were 9 people... So we showered and got ourselves ready.
The plan for the day was discussed. As it was our last city on the trip, it was definitely time to just do something mildly cultural but also to do something relaxing. The first port of call was breakfast.
Splitting into two groups, one taking a taxi to the center and the group I was in driving to the center, we split up for breakfast.
With Jan driving, we made our way to the city center. Being Good Friday, the
city was starting to become more crowded. However crowded the city was at that stage in the day, around Midday, we were still able to find a parking space, relatively close to the center. With the help of a man who was apparently a parking assistant for the street, we got a good space to park... for €1. After parking, we made our way to Calle Adriano. We walked down the street, trying to find a place to eat. We looked in a few local cafeterias but they didn't have anything really along the lines of breakfast foods, mostly just serving sandwiches. After about a fifteen minute search, we made our decision and went to a place called the Hotel Adriano. The foyer/breakfast area was open to the grey sky which let a cool breeze in on us as we looked over the menu.
Croissants, toasties, coffee and orange juice. Mostly the same orders between the lot of us but it was sufficient enough to see us through the early afternoon anyway. The service for breakfast was good and the food did it's job on satisfying our hunger... for at least half an hour! We didn't actually wait in the place too long as the other group had already eaten and were probably sightseeing, so we were quickly on our way.
We walked to our final destination, which was to the Plaza de Espana of Sevilla where we were to meet the others. On our way, it was amazing to see the cool architecture and designs in Sevilla. The Royal Alcazar, the Doors of Pardon and Cathedral of Sevilla were some of the cool buildings and monuments that we saw on our way, so it made the walk quite entertaining with some of us talking
about if we had our hands on a lot of money, what we would buy and what we would do with such royalties. 

Walking into the grounds of the Plaza de Espana of Sevilla, we saw people riding around in a cart being pulled by both donkeys and horses, which was quite a nice way to get around the Plaza and take it all in. Opting not to do that, we walked in and looked for the other group of people. The Plaza had quite a few people there so we did what we always do. Look for Max. Tall, blonde and identifiable. So right away, we found them! 
We took around the exterior of the building, looking at the different mosaics, frescos and tiled Alcoves on the side of the building as well as being pestered by the street vendors. We entered the big central building where you could climb higher and get a good view of the square. So we climbed up to take a look. Taking group pictures, laughing and joking didn't take away from the view. Probably THE best view of architecture I've ever seen in my life. In pictures, you can see just how beautiful it is and how picturesque the Plaza is but in person and for your own eyes, the Plaza was extremely beautiful, I couldn't
believe it. 
We left the Central building to go and do something else and relax and maybe get a drink. We walked towards the riverside street of Paseo de la Delicias. Some were getting the rumblies so food was also on the agenda. We walked towards the bridge when we came to a McDonalds. Nobody really felt up to Maccies so next door was another restaurant. Not getting anything to eat, I just got myself a drink and sat outside while they ordered their meals. After food was relax time. So we crossed the street and sat down by the river. Shoes off. Tops off. We sat and relaxed as the sun bet down on us. As we chilled out, a guy directly under us was fishing, so he provided some entertainment as he whacked his catch off the wall. A mix of entertainment and relaxation went on for a good hour before the sun started getting to all us Northerners. We left in search of another place to drink and
luckily for us, on the way towards our unknown destination, we came across an outdoor bar/kiosk where we all indulged in Desperados in the shade. Refreshed.
We continued on swiftly to see some more weird and wonderful structures in the city. We walked through the performance area of the Semana Santa which had hundreds of seats. Moving past that we made out way to the Metropol Parasol. One of the weirdest building designs I had ever seen. We entered to find some sort of indoor market before we climbed to the first floor to get a good panoramic view. Literally walking in and walking out, we were not 10 minutes inside 😂.
After the visit we were bound for home. The plan for the evening. Cook at
home. Chill and have a nice evening. So we went to the supermarket to get the ingredients. Quick trip to the store complete and we were on the way home. 
Back at the apartment, before dinner prep started, it was up to me to show off my discoveries from the night before. So we dressed Frank up in all the gear we could. Hat, glasses, scarf and of course, guns. He came out to the others with the guns and a round of "I want to try" started. So for a good hour, we handed around the pellet guns using cans on a wall as good targets.
When the girls returned, dinner prep began and we were all rolling up our sleeves to help. Everyone doing something and drinking at the same time, in no time the fajitas were ready. We prepped the table outside (someone sitting on a suitcase due to lack of chairs), we laid the food out and sat out on the terrace for dinner. It was probably the nicest dinner as we were just in a state of relaxation surrounded by good food, friends and drinks. Dinner escalated to
drinking on the terrace which transitioned into card games inside with more drinks. 
Before we knew it, it was midnight. Plans to go to the club were being passed around and eventually taxis arrived, so we just headed out! Uthopia nightclub was our venue for the night and as much as I want to, I can't remember anything from that night... The last part I remember was the taxi home...

Waking up the next day was bittersweet. We had to leave and head back home but leaving the awesome roadtrip behind was the sickening part. We had ourselves packed up, cleaned and ready to leave and had to prepare ourselves for the four hour drive back to Madrid. Before hitting the road to Madrid, a quick stop to Maccies was on the cards and after what sounded like a crazy night... No one really complained. We ate, said some goodbyes and hit the road to be back in Madrid before the time in which we had to return our cars.

All in all, the roadtrip, as expensive and crazy as it was, it was WELL worth it. For any Erasmus students reading, I would highly recommend going on a roadtrip at some point on the Erasmus experience. Live more of the country you're in. Try new things. Meet new people and best of all, have an experience you'll remember for a long time. Lucky for my friends, they can just look at this blog and be reminded of the fun journey!

To cap off this roadtrip saga, I'll end it with the most powerful quote to come from the trip...
"Hola, Get Out!"

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Remember to check out my Facebook: The Poor Student Traveller
Instagram: DavidCandyKeane
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*All underlined are placed we went or street names.

Monday, 24 April 2017

The Road Trip Saga: Do You Know Scooter? (Malaga)

Yup, it's your boy back at it again with them sick blog posts... I'll stop. 
What's up, guys? Another week, another couple hundred meltdowns from exam stress, social obligations and probably an unhealthy sleep pattern but hey, it's all about having fun in university, right?... Here's to a good study period and good luck with any exams or presentations.

So this is the second part of the Road Trip diary on what we did and where we went on the 6 day Road Trip in the Andalusian area of Spain. In the previous installment, you would have read about things like; Turning a normal Skoda into a dope trap car full of bangers, the different cat-related restaurants and the relaxing experience looking at the Alhambra.
With Granada now behind us, let's move on to the next stop and the amazing experience that is... Malaga!
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As the last part ended, we just finished eating in 4Gatos and picked up Olli and Frans, the two Finnish guys that joined us in Granada. After picking them up, our plan was to take the really coastal road to Malaga so that we could get a good look out at the sea and have some really nice views. As we were just leaving the city of Granada, a semi-coastal and not nearly as winding road was offered up as an alternative route. We would still get the views and get to see some mountains and lakes. Trusting the direction of Olli and Frans, we took their route towards Malaga. 
This route was in the direction of Motril. We followed the directions and we weren't disappointed. This route for sure gave us some of the best views I think I have seen in a really long time. The sun was beating down hard but the sunshine was just perfect as we came towards the coast. As we drove, on the right were sights like the Embalse de BĂ©znar, the Sierra Nevada mountain range and other bodies of water that was just a treat for the eyes.
There were no stops on the way to Malaga, as it was just a 2 hour drive. We left Granada at around 2:30 and were in Malaga at around 4:30 in the afternoon. When we got to Malaga, the sun was still high. As we were in separate groups
with two cars, the others were already ahead of us and we all had to wait a while before we were able to get the keys and enter our Airbnb. The others were in Malaga and having lunch somewhere by the time we arrived in the city so we parked up our car and decided to walk around the city for a while.
The idea to walk around was somewhat squashed by the fact that we had our luggage and were also just tired and as soon as the word "beer" was mentioned, it was the priority. We left our car parked in some unmarked parking area that still had an attendant, or maybe he was just there wearing a visibility vest... He still took a euro from us but hey, the car was parked straight so no complaints. We walked around the corner and up the street to the nearest cafeteria. The place was kind like the typical cafeteria/bar places you'd see nestled beside an alimentacion or something. However, we went in and ordered a beer each and decided we'd have a look at the fruit machines they had.
Man vs Machine. That's the best way I can describe what happened at the fruit machines. "Everything on red" at the roulette games just wasn't working for us. Our money and game credits were like sand in our hands. If anyone could fish out 50 cents, then were betting all on red and still losing 😂 We watched the locals and how they were just constantly winning. I took a chance at the fruit machine with absolutely no clue whatsoever but still managed to turn 50 cent into €3.20, so not bad but... it immediately went on all red and I lost it as quickly as I won it. Frans was the only other one of us successful on the games. But the Man vs Machine was not about the game but the battle to get a container of snus (tobacco powder for your upper lip) out of the cup holder of the fruit machine. After admitting it was a bad idea to do so but persuaded to do it anyway, Max slipped the container into the holder. It was pure comedic gold to watch him get it out 😆
Before getting into the apartment, we walked towards the street of our
apartment and decided to grab a bite to eat. Across the street from our apartment was a cafeteria called "Cafe Vicente" on the Plaza de Capuchinos. There, we got ourselves bocadillos and beers. The bocadillos were actually quite good and it was the most chill place. The bartender smoking inside. Everyone just relaxed with a beer. It was a mixture of different things, I guess. As we finished up, the others came to us to tell us that the Airbnb was ready and we could head over there. So we let them go ahead as we finished up and followed them over. 
The apartment we booked was a pretty cool place. The place we got was a loft apartment with ability to host 9 people. One bathroom, two rooms and a lot of beds. The bed I got was sharing the sofa bed. It was one of those pull out beds. But we didn't do anything with it as we were all looking to get out and take a look around the marina. We left the apartment and walked towards the town center. The town was full of people celebrating and there were large processions of people in their celebratory garb for the Santa Semana. It was
even bigger than that of Granada. Each side of the street was full of people, so it made it difficult to walk.
 Eventually making it into open space, we made our way down and reached the Paseo España, a nice walkway parallel to the marina. We stayed there for around 10 to 15 minutes, looking out at the marina as the sun was setting. It was really perfect actually and it was really beautiful to watch. But soon, the beauty of the marina and the sunset was soon overshadowed by the hunger that was creeping up on us and also the Barcelona v Juventus match that was soon to start. So realizing we were all hungry, we left towards the boardwalk area of the Marina where the restaurants were. We didn't really had to walk terribly far because as soon as we came onto the boardwalk, we spotted The Good
Burger. After quick inspection, we found out they were showing the match. So, this was our place for the evening. 
Two burgers, a couple of beers and 90 minutes later, we were full and happy with the 3-0 win from Juventus. The girls sat outside during the match, which was a nice place to sit with the marina just beside them. So after a quick chat, it was decided that we would continue on to find a bar and have a couple of drinks before going back home to bed. Walking through the streets now loaded with people, it was hard to find a place. Passing by Irish bars (breaking my heart), we eventually found a place that had seats outside. The bar was called "Baraboo Gin y Copas" and one of the main draws is that the place had Finnish Gin, Napue Gin or the best Gin in the world. We sat at the Baraboo bar, ordered a round of drinks and shisha. Perfect setting to chat and let Olli and Frans get to know those of us they didn't know. As we drank, the Santa Semana celebrations continued behind us. We smoked the shisha and had our drinks. Maybe getting a bit of the buzz. The Napue Gin, I have to say
was really good. I'll for sure drink it again if I get the chance, it was really nice. Full bodied and nice flavor to it. We drank up and then decided to have a nightcap back at the house before our day at the beach. 
We got home, cracked open some beers and played some bangers. Two different conversations happening, all while Teemu prepared himself for a job interview the following morning. Some of us were talking about different music. Speaking about German music, the musician Scooter came up in conversation, prompting me to ask an open question "Do you know Scooter?" followed by me playing one of his tracks. Long story short, my right to play bangers was revoked... After this, it was kind of a blur as we all headed to bed.
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The next day we woke at around 10-ish. The girls were already up and out, going to see some sights around the city before they headed to the beach. We all got ourselves ready as Teemu took his phone interview. Realizing I didn't pack any swim shorts, I had to borrow some sport shorts as a substitute from Teemu (Thanks man 😊). Lathering myself with sun cream because I easily burn with my pale, Irish skin and packing a duffel bag, we were all set to go.
On our way to the beach, we decided to stop not far away from our apartment for some breakfast. Not too far away and on our way to the beach was a little corner place called "Cafe Baena". Immediately when we walked in, we were greeted by the cook, a British lady. Their advertised English breakfast now got me excited, knowing a British person was cooking. Most of us ordered the English breakfast with coffee, juice and toast. The juice was fresh, coffee was helpful in perking us up but the breakfast itself was kind of a let down. There was a lot of space on the plate they gave us as the portion was actually just quite small, I thought. It was like... half an English breakfast but I wasn't 100%
satisfied.

After this, we walked down towards the beach, looking for a place in which we could purchase some beach equipment. Coming to the Marina, we came to a beach side alimentacion, just off of the beach. We went and bought a beach ball and bought matching hats. Cause you know. All gangs need to have a thing. Sun lotion and hats is ours. I wasn't complaining about the hat, it was quite helpful when you wanted to relax. 
We got to the beach and to the place where the girls had rented sun loungers under the sun. We set out our beach towels, got ourselves covered up in sun lotion and laid in the sun for a little while before making it to the water. The sand was hot, the water was initially cold. The run to the bathroom was difficult with the skin burning on the bottom of your feet. Playing in the water with the ball was difficult, being blinded by salt water made it quite hard indeed. But the coolest thing we saw however was when we were just laying out, noticing a helicopter circling the beach. We thought they were searching for something but people came parachuting out of the helicopters, which was really cool! We watched as they landed not too far up the beach from us.
At around 4 was when hunger struck. Behind us was a beach restaurant called "El Cachalote" where we had to make a reservation 30 minutes before eating. We waited with beers, Max, Jan and I as they got our table ready. We eventually sat, next to the girls who were eating here also. At this place, they were serving grilled fish which attracted a lot of attention. Teemu and I ordered the grilled chicken while the others grilled fish, I want to say Seabass. Half of our fries
were still cold but the chicken was actually quite good. And the fish was said to be good but just small, as they were still kind of hungry afterwards.
As we went back to relax, coming towards us were the people we were waiting for. Morten, Stephan, Sascha and François. The boys from Madrid on a road trip themselves. They laid out beside us before a game of football started up. Finland v Others. Jan, the girls and I laid spectating at the comical sight. But when the game was coming to an end, so did our time at the beach. The girls already left, as we had a dinner reservation in the evening. We weren't long following them back. We arrived back and got ready for dinner. 
We made the reservation for the restaurant on TripAdvisor. So with this, we got a 30% discount on our final bill. The place we reserved dinner was a restaurant called "Sabor a Fuego" on Paseo de Sancha. A bit of a walk from our place but it was a nice walk. At was on the next street from the beach, so we were quite close. We got there at 9:30, in time for our reservation.
Probably the nicest meal we had on the trip. The waiter was really attentive to our table. Telling us the best offers and combinations of things to get, personal recommendations with the food and with the wine. The food. I ordered the Beef Milanese. A breaded cut of beef with a side of butternut squash pureé and mashed potato. It was amazing. The beef was well done and exactly how I like
it. The word from the others who ordered things like the beef entrecote and the steak was that it was really good. With our offer, we all got desserts afterwards, some going for the Espresso martini's or the Cava Ice-cream. I had just the
typical ice-cream with chocolate sauce. Aw it was heaven. It was perfect, just after the main course and with red wine. It left us full and happy.

After dinner, it was drinking time. Deciding what to do was the hard part. Not wanting to go all the way back to our place but with no where else to go, buying from an alimentacion and going to a park was just the answer we needed. It was hilarious there. Conversations ranged from: Favourite Superhero to If we should save the pigeon that a cat is chasing... As we got drunker, the pigeon definitely needed to be saved. So, before leaving. Lotta and I almost went into the bushes to find either the cat or the pigeon... Yup. Almost IN the bushes. 
"I'm loving angels instead..." We sang walking from the park near the marina to the center of town. Our destination, Sala Gold Night Club. Did I bring my ID? No I did not. I had to walk all the way back to the apartment to get my ID while the others went in, which ended up in me taking a wrong turn and what was supposed to be a 20 minute venture for my ID, ended up being an hour. But when I got to the club, it was pretty awesome! The boys were still on the dancefloor. I joined them, ordering my drinks and dancing a bit. When we noticed the girls in the VIP area, our mission then was to join them. A guy offered the girls to come into the VIP section, who then managed to get us into the area also, which I give good credit for because the bouncer was a hard-faced man.
The guy whose table we kinda crashed, had 2 big bottles of gin (Bombey Sapphire and Beefeater), two shisha and a lot of glasses. The only conversations he seemed to want was to just tell us to drink up. Good chat. I didn't disagree with what he said, nor did the rest of us. 
Two bottles of gin and two bottles of champagne later, it was 7:30 already and we had to be up in a few hours to be out of the apartment. We left the club and went straight for kebab. A place in the center was still open, so we bought our kebabs and made our way home. On the way home. I'd say two meters of police tape just laid on the ground. So, being a good person, I picked it all up and took it into the apartment. Someone could have tripped on that on the street...
Going to sleep was a blur. But waking up 2 hours later with the landlady of the Airbnb at the door was also not the best sight. And for her, seeing all of us
dressed in our party clothes in bed, with police tape on the floor and also me sleeping on a mattress on the floor, must not have been ideal. Hence why we all have the memory of her walking in with "Hola. Get out". I laugh every time. So I would say in 30 minutes, we were up, packed and sitting outside the door. The plan for the rest of the day? Breakfast and sleep on the beach.
Jan, Erika, Lotta and I drove to the beach where we parked at an underground car park and then went to eat at a place called "La Canasta". It was nice but the breakfast was hard to digest and we all just felt bad from, I wanna say the night before but it was just a few hours before. As we ate, Frans walked past us on his way to the bus station as he was leaving for Granada. Hugs and handshakes goodbye as he went his way, we paid and left for the beach. 
On the beach, Teemu, Olli, Max, Frank and Morten were there and we all just went under the palm trees and slept for two hours I would say. After the nap on the beach it was a case of dine and dash to get to the next city. So, back to The Good Burger for some road food. It was good food for the stomach. We ate, and then Erika, Jan, Lotta and I were out and hit the road.

Malaga was awesome. The memories from Malaga are just comical. Between the VIP area, Max's Snus/Fruit machine situation, hunting for wildlife with Lotta... It was all pretty amazing in Malaga. 
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Stay tuned for the next installment where we eat, drink and laugh even more!
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And remember to hit us up on our social media!
Max: immonenmax
Me: DavidCandyKeane
Erika: erikaojala

And my snapchat: Dave_Keane

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Road Trip Saga: Granada

Hey guys! What a month it's been! A couple of midterm exams, a presentation or two and this road trip has been and gone. Santa Semana just finished also. Santa Semana is the Easter Week of Spain, which I think could be a bigger celebration that what I have experienced in Ireland. I hope you all, Erasmus or otherwise are getting ready for the final exams and remember, live the last few weeks of Erasmus to the absolute max! 
But what Road Trip did I mean? I'm talking about the 5/6 Day Road Trip I just completed with my friends down the South of Spain on the Costa del Sol in three incredible cities! That road trip of course! It's been hard to not upload all the picture I took of the incredible places on The Poor Student Traveller facebook page, which if you haven't, be sure to give a like! https://www.facebook.com/ThePoorStudentTraveller/
So on to the road trip itself! I'm excited to share the experience with you all! I guess lets begin with the set-up for the trip and the first destination!

The Set-Up

Around a month or so before we actually departed Madrid to go anywhere, my friends and I were discussing the possibility of doing something on Easter Week. Most of us were not really interested in heading home just for a few days when we have an amazing country that we haven't discovered much of. So with the concept of at least traveling on Easter Week, my friends Max (who has been mentioned in one or two posts before), Erika, Lotta, Jan and I met up in Madrid one evening to discuss the possibilities and the different things we would need for a road trip. We discussed everything, Locations, transport, people and what we would do and see at these places.
One of the biggest factors for the trip had to be BEACH! Living in Madrid and with the temperatures reaching around 24->30 degrees celsius, as much as I like the city, it sucks being here without a body of water or no beach to chill at. After a lengthy discussion, we finally came to the conclusion that the places we wanted to visit were: Granada, Malaga and Sevilla. We would rent cars, depending on the amount of people going and rent AirBnB apartments! After this discussion, up until the week before the trip was spent getting numbers on how many were going and making sure all accommodation and transportation was sorted out! After that... We were ready to go!

Granada

To begin with the first destination, Max, my friend Teemu and I left Madrid at around 10:30 after an hour spent in the office of Hertz/Thrifty, the company we were renting on of the cars from. At the Thrifty office, we were there with the attendant of the office discussing the different prices and different insurance packages we could get with the car we were renting. In total, the whole car altogether cost close to 473€. Within this mount included theft and damage insurance, which we took due to the fact that it was Santa Semana, as well as the car itself. Initially. we were supposed to be getting a Seat Ibiza, but were upgraded to a Skoda Superback. A car perfect for our trip, with enough room, The almost 500€ price was maybe 100 or 150 euro over what we estimated but with an upgraded car, it wasn't the worst price. 
From there it took around 4 hours to get to Granada. We carried water, peanuts, bananas, croissants and chips with us for the journey, you know, essential road trip snacks. Not satisfying our growing hunger, we stopped at a little roadside restaurant about one 45 minutes to an hour outside of Madrid where we sat, had a coffee to refresh ourselves and ate some bocadillos before hitting the road. The drive was quite nice with Max and Teemu. The car was rocking from a mixture of Big Sean, Drake, 21 Savage, Black Eyed Peas and my
favourite... JVG from Finland!
We arrived in the city of Granada at around 3:30 or 4pm, with the sun still shining and it was still quite warm. As we came into the city of Granada, the first thing we could see was the Sierra Nevada mountains, The snow covered peaks could be seen and it made for a spectacular view as we drove and made our way into the city. We drove around the city of Granada for about 20 minutes both trying to find our Airbnb location and also a good parking spot that would be close enough to our apartment and easily accessible. Eventually, we managed to find a spot just off the Camino de Ronda, the street in Granada with a phenomenal view of the Sierra Nevada peaks. Our parking spot was a 3 to 5 minute walk away from our Airbnb. We parked up, took our bags and made our way to the Airbnb where the remainder of our road trip group, Jan, Erika, Lotta and Laura were waiting for us to arrive. 
The other group took their car promptly from Centurion Car rental from the San Fernando area of Madrid which is quite close to the airport and is adjacent to the AC Hotel in that area. They took a Fiat 500L, which provided both room and comfort for even five people as well as luggage.
We got to the apartment. The apartment we rented from Airbnb was only 44€/night. As we stayed only one night, it was perfect. The apartment consisted of 4 bedrooms and 7 beds, enough for the seven of us, comfortably. The apartment was also fitted with two terraces, one with a perfect view of the Alhambra, 2 bathrooms and an appropriately sized kitchen. It was perfect!
After gathering our surroundings, we left the apartment in search of a place to eat and also get a good look at the city. As it was Semana Santa, it made it quite difficult to move around the streets as the pilgrims and devotees, some dressed in their Santa Semana costumes, filled the streets. We found ourselves at a restaurant not too far away from the Cathedral of Granada. The place was called Meson de Mar. Here, my friends Max, Teemu and I ordered the grilled chicken breast with fries. Lotta and Laura ordered the potato, prawn and asparagus. Out of all the places we ate at during the whole 5 day trip, I think the general consensus leads to believe that the Meson de Mar was not the best restaurant we visited on the trip. The portions were really small and the service was not that good, they forgot our requests quite often. I didn't even take a
picture of the food, it was quite disappointing. And you know how important food is for me...
After dinner, we made our way through the small streets of Granada, going through the crowds of celebrations until we came out on one of the main streets and almost immediately, we made the first pitstop at Massimo Dutti, the clothing retailer where Max was eager to find and buy a new shirt. After a comical 15/2o minutes at the store, we left empty handed with Max not finding what he wanted. We then moved forward towards the base of the climb towards the Alhambra where we looked in awe and also mild fright at the procession of people in the Santa Semana festivities. We watched and waited for two Finnish friends to meet us. The two friends, Olli and Frans met us and then decided to guide us up the climb to the Alhambra viewpoint. The walk up was really cool. We passed through the really interesting Arabic market area which had really cool smells and the products all looked really interesting. 
We kept climbing and eventually came to the viewpoint with our beers. We all took our touristy pictures, had our beers and had nice chats as the sun hit our faces. After maybe 20 or 30 minutes just chilling at this viewpoint, we
wondered about going higher to get an even better view of the Alhambra as the sunset. We climbed and climbed higher until we came to a nice resting area. This place was so beautiful with the Alhambra being lit up by the sun on its back. From my friends, you could feel the relaxation and from myself also. It was peaceful. 
Our stomachs were mostly the reason for leaving the high viewpoint of the Alhambra. We were getting hungry, and not surprising after the lunch we had 😂. Olli and Frans, our Finnish friends, suggested and accompanied us to a restaurant. Back down to the main streets of Granada, the two boys led us to the restaurant, "7Gatos" or "7Cats". The place had a good atmosphere, and had our reservation ready for us. We freshened up and took our seats. A big push came from Olli and Frans to take the burrito, their recommendation. A majority of the group ordered the burrito, I ordered the cheddar calzone (I hadn't had a calzone since my time in Italy). Max and Frans ordered the hamburgers. We got our beers. The Alhambra beer in Granada is really nice, I would recommend trying it! We were given mini burritos on a bed of couscous as an appetizer before our food, and my god... if it was an indicator for the food to come, then we were in for a treat because they were delicious. I just couldn't stop eating the couscous.
We got our food in what felt like no time at all. The burritos all looked really really tasty. I was internally jealous but I received my cheddar calzone which looked just so good. We all chowed down and conversed about Granada, what we did in the day etc. The drinks went down well and so did the food. I don't think there wasn't an empty plate! We finished up, paid and left. The plan for then was to just chill for the night, after a long day.
We went to an alimentacion, bought some drinks, went back to our apartment and just had a really nice and relaxing evening.
The next morning, after a little lie in, we packed up our cars, left the Airbnb and went for breakfast. The place we went was on the climb up to the Alhambra. The girls already left before us so
they were already there. The place where we ate was called "4Gatos". No idea about the fascination with cats in Andalusia, but oh well! 4Gatos was so good. It was a small-ish place but the food was really really good! I ordered the granola with banana and some toast and coffee. Max and Teemu ordered the Omega 3 salmon toast and Jan ordered the muesli with cinnemon.  The food was so delicious with fresh orange juice and really good coffee, but also at a reasonable price. If anyone is going to Granada, I recommend eating in 4Gatos!
After breakfast, we were back down and into the cars, picked up Olli and Frans to bring to Malaga with us and away we were onto the next city!

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Next will be the post about Malaga! Stay tuned for that!

Thanks to Erika for use of some of her Granada pictures! 
Be sure to follow on Instagram: erikaojala 
And to Max for his advice also. Check him on insta: immonenmax
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And be sure to check up with my 'gram!: Dave_Keane